All-round Niekerk lead from the front: India suffers a humiliating defeat against South Africa

South Africa- 273/9 (Lee 92, Neikerk 57, Pandey 3/40, Kaur 2/18)
India- 158 (Deepti 60, Jhulan 43* , Neikerk 4/22 ,Khaka 2/33)
South Africa Win by 118 runs.

All-round Niekerk lead from the front: India suffers a humiliating defeat against South Africa

‘Morning shows the day’- This well-known proverb treated two teams differently. Both the teams India and South Africa have played good cricket in the tournament and both the teams looked well balanced as they faced for the 5th round of the tournament. Though India had never been beaten by RSA in the world cups, this South African team turned the tide for their favour.

Protea is a flower that rises from the ashes even after the devastating fire. And before the 2015 world cup Team South Africa launched a campaign, “Protea Fire”, to inculcate the fighting spirit of the Protea Flower within the team and to fight hard till the end. (Source: AB the Autobiography)

This women Protea team, who lost their previous match against England but fought till the end to dare to chase 347, regrouped and produced may be their best performance in the world cup ’17 as they defeated India by 118 runs.

Winning the toss on a perfect day for the match, Mithali Raj decided to field first. Mithali’s decision seemed to fruitful as Shikha Pandey, making comeback in the team, removed Laura Wolvaardt (1) in her first over. But ‘morning didn’t showed the day’ there after for India. Trisha Chetty joined Lizelle Lee in the middle. And then Lee started to take attack to the Indian side. Left Arm spinner Ekta Bisht conceded 16 and Shikha Pandey was hit for 14 in an over by Lee. Both of them piled up 91 runs in 14 overs.

As they were looking for a century partnership, Chetty (29) felt to Bisht, caught by Jhulan on mid-off. That didn’t stop the attack, started by Lee who now attacked girl ‘with the golden arm’ Deepti Sharma. Century seemed to be at doorstep of Lee but Harry’s off spin plumbed her in front of wicket. She soon followed by Kapp (19) and former skipper du Prezz (22). From 92-2 in 16 overs RSA was staggering at 170-5 in 30 overs. South Africa started to rebuild the innings with the help of their skipper Niekerk and leg spinner Sune Luus. Both of them played the ball with its merit and kept the score board running with singles and doubles with occasional boundaries. After Luss got out Tyron (24) joined the party and implied the finishing touch. Both of them started to send the balls over the boundaries with ease. Niekerk made useful knock of 57 and helped South Africa to reach to a commendable score of 273/9. Shikha Pandey who made her comeback in the team picked up 3 wickets for 40 runs, Harmanpreet and Ekta got two wickets each.

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Chasing 274 runs to win India lost their opener Smriti Mandhana in 2nd over of the innings. Mandhana who failed to get into double digit in last two matches hit a boundary in the first ball she faced and then got out to play a pull shot of the bowling of Marizanne Kapp. South Africa got the momentum and then never gave India the opportunity to fight back. Punam was removed by Khaka for 22 . In the very next over RSA skipper Dane Van Niekerk provided India two blows which sealed the fate of India as well as of the match. In the very first bal she removed first Mithali Raj (out for her 1st golden duck) and 2 balls later Harmanpreet found her stumps shattered. Very soon Veda Krishnamurthy (3), Sikha Pandey (0) and Sushma Verma(0) followed the same path of her captain and vice captain. India lost their 6 wickets in mere 18 runs in 8 overs.

Teenager Deepti Sharma and veteran Jhulan tried to bat through the innings and made a partnership of 53 in 18 overs. Sharma became the 4th victim of Niekerk who produced an excellent figure of 10-0-22-4. She was well supported by other bowlers like Khaka (2/33) . Luss (1/27) ,Kapp (1/31) and Ismail (1/18). While Niekerk picked up wickets Ismail displayed a truly remarkable spell as she was the most economical bowler in the entire match (9-18-1). Jhulan remained not out for 47 as India failed to even play their allotted 50 overs , got packed up after putting 158. Thus RSA secured their first victory against India in World Cup. Though there must be a contention regarding the player of the match between Lee and Niekerk but due to her all round show, Niekerk was declared player of the match.

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Due to this defeat India’s Semi seems to fading away. As they need to win atleast one against Australia and New Zealand the chance is quite difficult but not impossible. They need to regroup and batting need to be improved against those teams. Top order need to perform well in order to defend or chase a decent total of more than 250 runs which is the par in this world cup. On the other hand semi final is almost achieved for RSA as they need to win 1 out of their two matches against Srilanka or Australia. If they don’t lose their composure and fighting spirit, who knows in the game of glorious uncertainty, the Proteas may bloom again to lift the world cup.

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